Midst The Ill In Sri Lanka

Chandika Jeyasekara, Biochemistry 3rd Year

Amid the tropical paradise of your summer getaway lies a variety of diseases not found in more temperate regions. The prevalence of certain diseases in certain environments is not only due to the difference in climates, but is also caused by a difference in diet and certain genetic pre-dispositions.

This summer I had the opportunity to observe some of the ways which a tropical country combats these diseases while shadowing a senior physician at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka. Some of the cases I encountered there included patients suffering from sickle-cell disease, leprosy, dengue fever and malaria, all of which are rarely found in the UK.

The senior physician spoke to me about not only about the importance of developing treatments but the significance of developing prevention strategies for tropical diseases. Currently incurable vectortransmitted diseases such as dengue fever are being combatted via government organised prevention strategies, such as spraying down particularly affected streets with mosquito killing chemicals. On the other hand, cirrhosis, a disease common within the South Asian population due to a combination of a genetic pre-disposition and a generally lower alcohol tolerance, compared to those of European descent, has required measures such as tailored alcohol consumption guidelines to try to reduce its prevalence.

I also had the opportunity to observe ways in which Sri Lanka, a developing country, was in the process of revolutionising its healthcare. The country had recently completed construction on its first bone marrow transplant unit thus giving a young boy suffering from sickle cell anaemia, who will otherwise require continuous medical care, hope for a permanent cure. The unit and its staff, whose training will be undertaken with the help of an American doctor, is proof that in a world that sometimes seems so keen to close off its borders lies a network of people dedicated to trying to achieve the singular goal of global access to quality healthcare.

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